By Brad Tuttle
September 5, 2018

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is getting into politics. But it’s not what you might think: The world’s richest man and his wife, MacKenzie, just made their first major political donation.

The money isn’t heading to a specific political party. Instead, they are giving $10 million to a nonpartisan fund aimed at helping to elect military veterans of all political backgrounds to Congress.

One day after Amazon became the world’s second $1 trillion company and Jeff Bezos’s wealth hit an all-time high of $168 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on the Bezoses’ big donation. The couple is giving $10 million to With Honor, a Super PAC that calls itself a “cross-partisan organization” and helps elect military vets to Congress in order to “to create a more effective and less polarized government.”

The Bezoses “perceive themselves to be pretty nonpartisan,” Rye Barcott, the founder of With Honor, told the Journal. “The idea of doing something different and disruptive appealed to them, along with our focus on values and integrity in our national discourse.”

With Honor says that it focuses on veterans for several reasons, including the strong work ethic and leadership skills developed by those who serve in the military. Veterans have demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice for their country, and research shows that they are also more likely than non-veteran politicians to work with colleagues from other political parties on legislation.

Many of the world’s richest people — including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, and David and Charles Koch — are renowned for donating tens of millions to causes, both political and charitable. However, Jeff Bezos, who has been at the top of the world’s richest persons list since last summer, has done relatively little publicly in terms of giving his money away.

Yet Bezos is clearly very interested in using his wealth to make an impact. In the summer of 2017, he tweeted a request for philanthropic ideas that would help people “at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” He followed up this summer with another message on Twitter, saying that he’d thought over the possibilities and would soon be making a major announcement about two areas he would like to focus on.

It’s not clear if the Bezoses’ $10 million With Honor donation is related to Jeff Bezos’s previous statements about philanthropy. A spokesman for the Bezoses says they declined to comment on the topic.

Until now, the highest-profile donation made by the Bezoses was a $33 million gift in early 2018 to a scholarship fund to help Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — pay for college.

By contrast, Bill and Melinda Gates gave away nearly $5 billion to charitable causes in 2017, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. That’s the equivalent of 5.4% of their wealth. If Bezos gave away the same portion of his wealth this year, it would be over $9 billion.

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